Harry Styles took the world by storm on the cover of the December issue of American Vogue. Dressed in a floor-length lace dress accompanied with a black tuxedo jacket, Styles combines elements of masculinity and femininity to create a masterful ensemble of androgynous fashion. ‘Bring back manly men’, tweeted the conservative author Candace Owen in response to the Vogue photoshoot, igniting thousands of fans to defend Styles and gender-neutral fashion.
In response, Styles cleverly clapped back on Instagram with a photo of him styled in a powder blue suit and a pleated shirt, accompanied with the caption ‘Bring back manly men’. His twist on Owen’s intended insult demonstrates how masculinity is not defined by the clothes we wear.
Whilst this interaction has brought the conversation of androgyny in fashion to the forefront of the media, gender-neutral fashion has always existed, whether it has been in the media or not.
It was queer people, trans people and people of colour who broke down the gender norms in fashion, as pioneer of the genderless fashion movement Alok Vaid-Menon emphasises. The fashion industry has tried to adopt gender-neutral fashion as a ‘trend’, whilst ignoring how marginalised peoples have faced violence for breaking gender binaries in fashion.
Genderless fashion is about more than just clothes: it’s about the people who pioneer the movement. Gender-neutral clothing has been incorporated on the catwalk, but are brands going to address the need for diversity of models in casting? Or in marketing? As Menon says in a speech for The Business of Fashion, ‘I am not an idea, I am not a symbol, I am not a prop, I am a person’, and the fashion industry needs to prioritise the people who have spearheaded genderless fashion into popular culture.
London-based label Art School are redefining the face of luxury fashion by creating a brand focused on gender-neutral fashion and inclusivity. Harris Reed, a young designer who identifies as genderfluid, has been making moves in the fashion world, creating clothing with a vision of gender-fluidity. These designers, amongst others, are reinventing what designer
fashion means in the modern world.
Gone are the days where gender-neutral fashion is seen as grey, drab and shapeless. No longer should men have to wear traditionally masculine clothes to be deemed ‘manly men’. Genderless fashion is about authenticity, the expression of oneself, and defying the gender binary. Genderless fashion isn’t new, and it isn’t a trend.